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Post-Polio Syndrome and Exercise

Because post-polio syndrome symptoms (like pain and weakness) can result from the overuse of muscles and joints, there have been mixed views on exercising if you have post-polio syndrome. For people with this condition, exercise is safe and effective when carefully prescribed and monitored by experienced healthcare providers.

An Overview of Post-Polio Syndrome and Exercise

Post-polio syndrome symptoms of pain, weakness, and fatigue can result from the overuse and misuse of muscles and joints. These same symptoms can also result from disuse of muscles and joints, which has caused mixed views about whether to encourage or discourage exercise for polio survivors or individuals who already have post-polio syndrome.

Exercise Recommendations for People With Post-Polio Syndrome

For people with post-polio syndrome, exercise is safe and effective when carefully prescribed and monitored by experienced healthcare providers. It is important to note that exercise is more likely to benefit those muscle groups that were least affected by polio.
Cardiopulmonary endurance exercise in people with this condition is usually more effective than strengthening exercises. Heavy or intense resistive exercise and weight-lifting exercises may be counterproductive because they can further weaken (rather than strengthen) the muscles that are affected by polio.
Exercise prescriptions for patients with post-polio syndrome should include:
  • The specific muscle groups to be included
  • The specific muscle groups to be excluded
  • The type of exercise, together with how often it should be performed and for how long.
Exercise should be reduced or stopped if additional weakness, excessive fatigue, or unduly prolonged recovery time is noted. Make sure to talk to your doctor for more recommendations on post-polio syndrome and exercise.
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